On or off the market?

The list of viable free agents that will be available starting March 3rd is dwindling as teams place the franchise tag on the top of the crop. Is there are anyone worth paying big money to this off-season? The answer will be known by the end of the day on Tuesday.

The Bears are looking for playmakers on both sides of the ball according to Bears GM Jerry Angelo. That could come in many different forms and the first option to add talent is through free agency, which starts on March 3rd.

The talent pool will be known after Tuesday, which is the deadline for teams designating a prospective free agent with the franchise tag meaning any team that would sign the player would have to surrender two first-round draft picks. Considering Angelo's philosophy on building through the draft there is no way the Bears will pay that price.

Three areas that need an upgrade this off-season is both sides of the line and running back. However considering that a playmaker usually comes from the skill positions the Bears might think about adding depth at cornerback.

The Raiders and Redskins have placed the franchise tag on the top two cornerbacks in Charles Woodson and Champ Bailey. There are reports that the Ravens will add Chris McAllister to that list. Leaving the top options as are Buffalo's Antoine Winfield or San Francisco's Ahmed Plummer.

Left tackle is an area that the Bears need to address. Orlando Pace has already been franchised and there is good chance that both Seattle's Walter Jones and Green Bay's Chad Clifton will befall the same fate.

Angelo has stated the Bears will be active in the free agent market and appears to be looking for ways to clear additional cap room by restructuring or even cutting veterans Phillip Daniels and Warrick Holdman.

Will there be anyone worth giving big money to?

Jevon Kearse comes to mind considering the Titans are in desperate need to shed payroll and the Bears desire to resurrect a pass rush that has been on life support for years. While at the combine, Titans GM Floyd Reese said there are three options to get under the projected cap number of $78-80 million and all include keeping Kearse. It would cost the team $6.5 million next season to tag Kearse and that's a hefty number considering the Titans are currently $19 million over the cap.

"The franchise tag is actually the worst possible situation for everybody because he drops the signing bonus," Reese said. "And we get a guy who's not going to be there during the offseason, who gripes, who's not going to be there during training camp.

"It's a way to keep him, but it's an ugly way out."

Although Reese believes placing the franchise tag is the worst option for both the team and the player, it would be hard to let a player of Kearse's caliber test the open market.

"What value does he have out there? I don't know. I mean, he's a quality player. If he goes out, and he gets in the market what we've offered, I think the tendency is to go back to the home club. He's got a role, he's got a home, he loves Tennessee, he loves Nashville, all of those kinds of things. If somebody goes out and blows us away, and they offer him $25 mil to sign or something, then he's probably going to have a new uniform next year."

Warren Sapp is the top defensive tackle available, but it seems his age and attitude will keep the Bears out of the hunt.

Charlie Garner and Duce Staley are the two top running backs available. While both have the ability to catch the ball and make the initial tackler miss, Garner, 32, and Staley, 29, are arguably both on the down side of their careers.

"I don't know that there's anybody out there that we consider a need position that we would consider special," Angelo said. "Will we be aggressive? Yeah, we'll be very aggressive. If we like the player and we feel that we're projecting what the marketplace will be."

Other players that have been tagged New Orleans DT Darren Howard, Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius and Colts QB Peyton Manning.

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